|"The Vessel Arrives Too Late"|
|(奪還～間に合わなかった器, Dakkan~Ma ni Awanakatta Utsuwa)|
|Previous||"Losing is Not an Option!"|
|Next||"Miscalculation: A New Enemy Appears!"|
|Arc||Sasuke Recovery Mission|
|Manga||Naruto Chapter #198, Naruto Chapter #199|
|Japanese||January 12, 2005|
|English||December 1, 2007|
Back in Otogakure, Orochimaru is in immense pain as his arms are bleeding profusely. Kabuto tells Orochimaru that he will die unless he takes over someone else's body, even offering his own, but Orochimaru claims that Sasuke is the only vessel he will take. Kabuto, however, tells Orochimaru that it doesn't look like the Sound Four will bring Sasuke to Oto in time, and that he must take a new vessel quickly before he dies. Kabuto then releases all of the prisoners who he and Orochimaru experimented on, and promises to release only one of them. The prisoners then fight each other to the death so that the sole survivor may be granted freedom. Kabuto then goes to check on Kimimaro, a loyal follower of Orochimaru who is terminally ill and thus bed-ridden. It is revealed that Kimimaro was the leader of what used to be known as the Sound Five, and that he was to be the vessel for Orochimaru, until he was afflicted with his disease. As he no longer has any purpose for Orochimaru as his vessel, Kimimaro believes his existence has lost all meaning; however, he finds himself a chance to redeem his existence when he decides to devote his remaining lifespan to ensure that Sasuke, Orochmaru's future vessel, is brought to Otogakure.
Meanwhile, the Sasuke Recovery Team is catching up to Tayuya and Sakon and Ukon. Kiba and Akamaru decide to wait until it's dark to ambush them, but Shikamaru states that they will be fumbling blindly in the dark while also giving up their positions, thereby giving the enemy the advantage; on top of that, Shikamaru would be unable to use his Shadow Imitation Technique. Despite Kiba's protests, Naruto states that they need to trust in their team leader's plan.
After fighting each to the death, Gen'yūmaru, the sole surviving prisoner, is chosen to be Orochimaru's new vessel. Orochimaru promises to grant him one wish before taking his body, and Gen'yūmaru asks if Orochimaru could stop performing experiments on the members of his clan. Orochimaru gives his word to Gen'yūmaru before using his Living Corpse Reincarnation jutsu to take over Gen'yūmaru's body. At the same time, Kimimaro leaves Otogakure to retrieve Sasuke.
As Tayuya, Sakon and Ukon run through the forests, they wonder what is taking Jirōbō and Kidōmaru so long to catch up. They stop after Tayuya notices kick in the container Sasuke is kept in. Before she can check on it, she spots Naruto watching them from a tree branch. As she guards the container, Sakon and Ukon try to take down Naruto, only to be ambushed by Kiba and Shikamaru. As Sakon deals with those two, Naruto uses his Shadow Clone Technique and prepares his Rasengan. It turns out that "Kiba" and "Shikamaru" are none other than transformed shadow clones, and Naruto tries to hit Sakon with his Rasengan, only for Sakon to grab his hand and dispel the technique. The real Kiba then uses his Passing Fang technique to go through Naruto, who is revealed to be just a shadow clone, in an attempt to hit Sakon. Sakon easily jumps out the way, but Kiba keeps going, heading towards Tayuya. Realising that she was the intended target all along, Tayuya attempts to grab the container containing Sasuke and flee, only to be trapped in place by Shikamaru and his Shadow Imitation Jutsu. Kiba manages to cancel his Passing Fang technique right before he hits Tayuya, and grabs the container and tosses it to Naruto. Sakon, who is plummeting towards Kiba, is unable to change his trajectory and heads towards Tayuya. Shikamaru cancels his technique just before Sakon hits Tayuya, avoiding getting injured himself. The team then take the container and flee, only for an incensed Sakon to activate his cursed seal and go after them.